It’s not digital, it’s magical


The Winter 2011 SpinKnit eMag.

The Fall 2011 SpinKnit eMag.

The 2010 SpinKnit eMag.

Brave new media

I have issues with the word "digital". This goes all the way back to high school Latin, one of my all-time favorite learning experiences, where digitus was finger or toe, period. Counting systems sprang from our digits. Early folk measured things with their digits, where the width of a finger was called a digit. Early English digits, in the measuring sense, were about ¼ inch—tiny hands those early English had!

So when I think "digital", I think, "fingers." I spin, weave, and knit with my digits—I would be quite lost without them, especially that big fat offset one. However, the rest of the world has moved on. Now "digital" seems to mean just about anything that does not involve your fingers: mysterious positive and negative states, units of stuff you can't see.

Here at Interweave, we are all over this. Where it used to be just books and magazines made out of paper, we now have videos that are made without even the benefit of film and books that come straight to your computer in ways I cannot fathom. Tons of wonderful information just there for the taking, but not for the touching.

My favorite form of this brave new media is our "eMags." It's a bit of a misnomer, because while they're "e" (for electronic), they are quite a bit more than a Mag (for magazine). You have words and pictures, just like in olden times, but you also have bits of video, pictures that turn into slide shows at the touch of a…digit(!), and illustrations that are animated. You can view these on your computer or on your iPad if you have one. You can print out patterns and instructions from them. Boggles the mind.

Our Winter 2011 issue of SpinKnit, for instance, has not only an in-depth story on sericulture and spinning silk in Mexico, but a lovely video showing it happening in a highland village. There's not only an overview of handcarding in recent decades, but animated illustrations showing different ways to wield your handcards and a video of a woman in a little village high above Oaxaca breaking all the rules. You want to see/hear a silkworm violate the standards of good table manners? It's there. Lots of other stuff, too. All "digital." In the modern sense.

This new medium is especially good for spinning, which is one of the most kinetic of all crafts. We've felt challenged for more than thirty-five years to actually show different spinning processes in a few static photographs. Now, a two-minute video is worth a few thousand pictures, literally. We've felt challenged in the past by having to cut great content out of an article because we had to make them fit on a page. Now, we can just ask the reader to scroll on.

All things considered, I guess my only issue with the new media is about calling it "digital." Magical would be the better word.

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